Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton draws first Democratic challenger for 2018

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is getting his first Democratic opponent for re-election.

Attorney Justin Nelson is entering the race to be the state's top lawyer with just over a month until the candidate filing deadline for the 2018 primaries.

"Justice is for all. Nobody is above the law," Nelson said in a news release. "Texans can do better than our indicted Attorney General who is charged with criminal fraud."

Paxton, who is seeking a second term, has been under indictment for most of his current term, fighting securities fraud charges stemming from allegations before his time as attorney general. Those legal troubles have made him a top target for Democrats in 2018, despite the void of challengers until now..

Nelson, 42, is a partner specializing in major civil litigation at the Houston law firm Susman Godfrey LLP who has been named a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, he clerked for ex-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Harvey Wilkinson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Nelson lives in Austin, where he is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Nelson is not entirely new to politics. He is the founder and former president of One Nation One Vote, a group that is pushing to elect the president by popular vote. The issue has been a hot topic in the wake of the 2016 election, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College but lost to her in the popular vote.

Nelson is joining the race as Democrats scramble to fill out their statewide ticket with serious contenders, most notably for the gubernatorial contest. The candidate filing period begins Saturday and concludes a month later.

Upon Nelson's announcement, another Democrat who had been mulling a run for attorney general, Lubbock attorney John Gibson, threw his support to Nelson.

"I am honored by the outpouring of support I have received but I have decided that Justin and I are so similar in vision that it makes no sense for both of us to run," Gibson said in a statement. "Justin Nelson is the best person to defeat Ken Paxton and restore integrity to the office of Attorney General."

Nelson still may not be the only Democrat vying to challenge Paxton in March. Vincent Harding, the outgoing chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, has said he is weighing a run as well.

Paxton's legal saga is likely to continue well into the 2018 race. He is currently waiting for a new trial date in the state's long-running criminal case against him, which goes back over two years. The trial has been delayed three times, and his lawyers have suggested rescheduling it for March.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty to all the allegations. He has already been cleared in a similar civil case at the federal level.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

Texas Tribune mission statement

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

2017 THE TEXAS TRIBUNE


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment